Make Me a Muslim!

We have some mad makeover shows in Britain. In You Are What You Eat, "Dr" Gillian McKeith moves in with a morbidly obese couple, pokes around in their poo (literally), and tells them that if they don't stop scoffing chips … Read More

By / December 19, 2007

We have some mad makeover shows in Britain.

In You Are What You Eat, "Dr" Gillian McKeith moves in with a morbidly obese couple, pokes around in their poo (literally), and tells them that if they don't stop scoffing chips they will die. In What Not To Wear, two posh women with a penchant for botox claim to be able to improve people's self-esteem—and thus the mental health of the entire nation—by giving them fashion advice. In The Sex Inspectors, a group of "sexperts" watches a couple frolicking late at night and then gives them advice on how to improve their love life.

But these shows seem perfectly sane compared with the maddest makeover series yet: Make Me a Muslim (watch the show at bottom of this page).

This mini-series, which kicked off on Channel 4 this week, features four "Muslim mentors" who try to instill Islamic values into a bunch of slovenly Brits. In the first episode, we were introduced to a beer-swilling taxi driver (scum!), a mum and part-time glamour model (slag!), and a gay man with a high-pitched voice who wears pink t-shirts (deviant!), all of whom will be whipped into shape by the pious Islamic lifestyle gurus.

Make Me a Muslim borrows heavily from other makeover shows. It has the snobbish dietary element of You Are What You Eat: on Sunday the Muslim mentors visited the contestants' homes and emptied their fridges of pork and alcohol. And the show is fixated on fashion: One of the Muslim mentors, a bearded imam, took the gay contestant to a clothes store to buy him some "manly clothes." It was like Islamic Eye for the Queer Guy.

The female Muslim mentor encouraged the mum-cum-glamour-model—who normally wears skimpy outfits—to don an ankle-covering, hair-hiding hijab. I sympathised with the glamour model when she complained: "This thing is choking me….I feel I am being oppressed by clothes."

The mentors were disgusted to find that one of the contestants—a feisty blonde— sleeps in the same bed as her partner even though they're not married! They demanded that she decamp to the spare room.

Channel 4 describes the show as a "unique social experiment" in which the mentors try to "rescue" Britons who have no moral values. This got me thinking: we hear a lot about "institutional Islamophobia" these days, where Britain's political and cultural elites allegedly whip up fear of Muslims to justify draconian measures. But what about its twin: institutional Islamophilia, the authorities' bizarre belief that Islamic values might make Britain great again?

Trendy opinion-formers and officials promote Islam as the solution to Britain's moral decline. Earlier this year, Time Out magazine, the bible of
London's latte-drinking, theatregoing classes, argued that an "Islamic London would be a better place".

Apparently we'd all be healthier since alcohol would be banned. "Turning all the city's pubs into juice bars would have a massive positive effect on public health", said Time Out. And the capital would be greener, too, because "the Islamic concept of halifa or trusteeship obliges Muslims to look after the natural world". Save the planet and your health: go Islamic now!

Last month London's Evening Standard hosted a debate titled "Is Islam good for London?", in which some participants argued that Islam's "core values" might help to anchor out-of-control Brits. The daft notion that drunken and disrespectful Britons might benefit from a short sharp dose of Islam is becoming widespread. In 2005, six Tory Members of Parliament wrote a letter to the Spectator in which they said that Islamists who describe Britain as decadent are "right". "Whether it is lawlessness, family breakdown, the menace of drugs, binge-drinking, teenage pregnancies or merely the coarse brutishness which has infested British culture… the results of years of woolly-minded liberal thinking are plain to see", they said.

Meanwhile, everyone from London mayor Ken Livingstone to former PM Tony Blair speak of their "deep respect" for Islamic values.

We've ended up with a kind of colonialism-in-reverse. Once, arrogant British elites sought to force their Christian, imperialist values on "the natives", including Muslims, in the Third World; today a bereft and confused British elite hopes that importing some of the natives' culture over here might help to keep unruly Brits in their place.

The terrible irony is that Islamic radicals, the biggest Islamophiles of all, are driven by a stunningly similar fear and loathing of the feckless masses. The Crawley plotters, found guilty of terrorist offences earlier this year, wanted to blow up nightclubs and kill "those slags dancing around." Those who planted car bombs outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London on ladies' night in June, and crashed car bombs into Glasgow airport during the height of the summer holiday season, also seemed keen to target Britain's "slaggish", hedonistic culture.

These hot-headed extremists fancy themselves as rebels. In fact they're more like the armed wing of Institutional Islamophilia. Where Channel 4 wants to make us into Muslims through makeover shows, violent Islamophiles want to make us into Muslims through fear and terror. Both sides are motivated by a desire to save Britons from their own alleged beastliness.

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